Briana Waters – Conviction Overturned
National Lawyers Guild Issues New Report on Policing of Protests
National Lawyers Guild Convention – New Orleans
Lynne Stewart Turns 70 on October 8
Last week the FBI raided six homes in Minneapolis and two in Chicago allegedly searching for links to terrorism. The Minneapolis raids targeted antiwar activists Jessica Sundin and Mick Kelly, among others. They were key organizers of the big march on the first day of the RNC in 2008. In one Minneapolis home, FBI agents arrived with warrants, searched every room, attic and basement, looking through CDs, DVDs, books, and photos. Passports, travel and phone records were among items seized from the homes. The FBI issued subpoenas for the peace activists to appear before a grand jury in Chicago on October 12. FBI search warrants indicate agents were looking for connections between local antiwar activists and groups in Colombia and the Middle East. NLG HOTLINE – 888-654-3265
- We’re putting a group of lawyers together from the National Lawyers Guild. We’re speaking to our clients right now about what a grand jury is, how it functions, and whether they have a right to refuse to testify at a grand jury or not. A total of 12 people were served with subpoenas.
- Humanitarian Law Project decision emboldens the government to push the envelope and see what they can get away with. I have not been told that anyone is a target, and we’re concerned about what that means.
- Technically the Attorney General’s office is not suppose to issue a subpoena to a target unless they get a higher authority to do that. Historically a grand jury was supposed to be citizens coming together to determine if charges should be filed criminally against somebody.
- Now it’s pretty much a rubber stamp for what the prosecutors want. People should be very concerned about going there, because what you say can be twisted around.
- Most cases, people can say they don’t want to testify at a grand jury, they’re going to exercise their fifth amendment rights against incrimination. However, if they offer you immunity and you refuse to testify, you can be taken to a judge, they’ll read the questions to the judge, and ask you to answer them.
- If you refuse to answer them then a judge can hold you in civil contempt and you can be incarcerated for the length of the remaining time of the grand jury. The government is not showing us all their cards, we don’t know where they’re going with this.
- Regarding activism: I’ve seen some unity here I’ve never seen before in my life, where groups that don’t get along, are now rallying around them.
- Do not speak to federal agent, do not lie to a federal agent.
Guest – Jim Fennerty, attorney, activist and National Lawyers Guild member. Jim has been handling activist cases for 38 years.
In late 2009, The American Law Institute, which created the intellectual structure for the current capital justice system for nearly 50 years, essentially announced that its project has failed. The New York Times wrote, “the institute’s move represents a tectonic shift in legal theory.” The article also points out that capital punishment was plagued by problems including racial disparities. We continue to see these types of problems in three recent death penalty cases in Virginia, Georgia and California. In Virginia, Teresa Lewis, a grandmother, was the first woman to be executed in that state in nearly 100 years. Last week Teresa Lewis was given a lethal injection at 9PM in Greensville Prison. Teresa was convicted of hiring two gunmen to shoot her husband and stepson to collect on their life insurance policy. Both gunmen were sentenced to life without parole. Attorneys argued that the court consider a key piece of evidence on Teresa’s behalf. That evidence was a letter from one of the gunmen who killed himself in jail in 2006, in which he claimed full responsibility for the murder plot and suggests he pushed Lewis into it. Lewis also had an IQ of 70.
Last week in a Georgia death penalty case, Brandon Joseph Rhode was found in his cell with his arms and neck slashed days before his scheduled execution by lethal injection. According to reports, his lawyers have pleaded clemency, arguing he suffered brain injury from alcoholism and because his mother took drugs during pregnancy. If executed, he will be the 25th person put to death by the state; the last one was in June. Rhode and an accomplice were sentenced to death for murdering an 11-year-old boy, his 15-year-old sister and their father during a botched robbery in 1998.
In California, a federal and state court judge refused death row inmate Albert Greenwood Brown’s request to block his scheduled execution. Brown and another death row inmate have filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s new lethal injection regulations, saying the procedures were improperly adopted. State procedures have since been revised after a federal judge halted the death penalty in California amid concern that its method of lethal injection amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
- These are two horrible executions. Teresa Lewis had an IQ of 72. She was executed after Governor MacDonald refuse her clemency requests. The judge said she was the head of the serpent in this particular case and he decided horribly to have her executed.
- There’s no deterrent for people with the IQ of 72 or for someone with an IQ of 150. This murder happened in 1992; this execution happens in 2010.
- There are about 3 dozen states that have capital punishment laws. In California, one of the drugs they use for lethal injection has expired and they can’t get any more.
- LINKS – NCADP / Death Penalty Information Service
Guest – Attorney David Seth Michaels. David has represented clients for 30 years, including prison inmates in Mississippi and Tennessee. He’s worked with Brooklyn Legal Services B and with the Federal Defenders Service Appeals. He is also a novelist. He has his own legal practice in New York. David Michaels’s Blog
It is now up to the Supreme Court to decide if corporations can be held liable in U.S. courts for violations of international human rights law. Recently, a US Appeals Court dismissed a case against Royal Dutch Shell in which the oil company was accused of helping Nigerian authorities violently suppress protests against oil exploration in the 1990s. One judge on the three-member appeals court panel wrote a strong dissent of the majority opinion, calling it “a substantial blow to international law.” In a past interview with attorney Peter Weiss, Peter explained how a 1789 U.S. statute Alien Tort Claim was used to hold multinational corporations accountable for human rights crimes. The case was brought by families of seven Nigerians who were executed by a former military government for protesting Shell’s exploration and development.
- This was a class action brought by the Ogoni people against Shell parent companies and Nigerian subsidiaries.
- They brought the case because Shell had been complicit with the military dictatorship in the nineties.
- They were detaining, torturing and killing people to oppress the grassroots opposition movement to Shell’s environmental degradation. Shell Oil is a US company.
- Basically, two judges went out of their way to find that corporations can’t be held liable for international human rights violations. The result is that corporations can profit from killing and torturing and can’t be required to compensate the victims.
- Hopefully this decision won’t stand. This is the first Circuit Court to rule like this.
- Unfortunately I think corporations are going to be submitting this decision in their own cases around the country. Hopefully, that won’t be successful. As it stands the decision applies to the Second Circuit, New York, Connecticut and Vermont.
- Even if this decision stands, the court left open and confirmed you can sue individuals. Even here we can sue CEOs and directors of corporations.
Guest – Attorney Maria LaHood has worked on the case Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Shell, for the torture, detention and execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other human rights activists and protesters in Nigeria. Maria LaHood joined the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in 2004. She specializes in international human rights litigation, seeking to hold government officials and corporations accountable for torture, extrajudicial killings, and war crimes abroad.